If you ask an adult man what his idea of being a real man is, he will likely tell you that you should be strong, never cry and make loads of money. Ask the same person what qualities he believes makes a good man and the answer will be a little different, he will likely mention acting with integrity, being responsible and doing the right thing. It is possible to be a good man and do some of the things ‘real men’ do, but it is much better if we can teach our kids to try and be good and kind rather than tough and aggressive.
Emotion is a powerful part of the human psyche and trying to teach our kids to ignore them is likely to cause more harm than good. When the guys who were asked about what makes a real man were asked where these ideals came from they all had similar answers. Fathers, sports coaches, other guys and older brothers were the primary source of the idea of masculinity. We learn from a young age from these people what it means to be a ‘real man’ and then have to put on an act for other males at certain stages in our lives, betraying what we really feel inside. If we can change the way our young sons see their masculine elders then perhaps the thoughts of being aggressive and ruthless are going to be less common in the future.
Think back to a time when somebody near you was being bullied. Did you step in, defend the person and see the bully on their way, or did you look at the ground, or in the other direction, too scared to do anything? Many of us would like to think that if we saw somebody being bullied, we would step in and do the right thing but often we have allowed this physical manifestation of masculinity do what it likes to helpless victims.
The qualities of a ‘good man’ mention doing the right thing and stepping in to help the person being bullied as the correct thing to do, but often we’ll turn a blind eye and regret it for the next few days as we know we could have stopped someone’s life being miserable for a while. Teaching our young sons what the kind thing to do is can make them more likely to do the right thing when the time comes and stand up for someone who isn’t able to do it themselves.
The younger generation has a better idea of how to treat females better than the older ones. Studies have shown that in the workplace workers under the age of thirty are far less likely to compliment a woman on her attractiveness in comparison to the older generation. Many of our young sons have more intergender friendship groups than ever before, perhaps suggesting that there are a few things the older generations can learn from those younger than them.
Teaching our young sons to be kind rather than instilling the old masculine values of the past can help to bring them up with compassion for others. That can improve the way they interact with their peers, making them more likely to question something when they don’t think it is right. The younger generation is actually showing the older generations how to do things, and maybe there is a thing or two the older generations can learn from them.